UFC Drug Czar: The NAC got Diaz case wrong

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Josh Samman recently did an important interview with UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky. UFC welterweight Nick Diaz recently received a five-year suspension and $165,000 fine from the Nevada Athletic Commission, for failing a marijuana test that he did not fail.

In a testament to his character, Novitzky did not take the political way out, but was frank, saying the NAC is in error. He also voiced support for the organization, saying their intentions were good, but their understanding of drug testing was inadequate.

“I’ll preface by saying I think the commission's motives are in the right place. I do think that they really do care about the short end and long term health of our athletes and that's the reason why they've taken a harsh stance in the anti-doping world. I think they're trying to do the right thing.

“I think though that they're at a big disadvantage in that anti-doping is a very difficult field to 100% comprehend. Those commissioners are part time, at best. The Executive Director, Bob Bennett, who runs the anti-doping day to day operations, that’s only a small part of his full time job. I’ve been immersed in anti-doping for 13 years, and I’m still constantly learning and struggling to keep up with the intricacies of it. It’s a difficult topic and area, but it’s one you have to get perfect, and all that being said, they didn’t get this one perfect. They got this one wrong, in my opinion.

“My understanding was that there was three tests taken the night of the fight. There was one taken before the fight, one immediately after, and one shortly after that. The ones at either end, first and last, were done at WADA accredited labs. Those will be the ones we use under our program, and they are the highest standard in laboratories, both in testing and sensitivity of equipment, and in the way samples are collected. They are sent to the lab anonymously so the lab doesn’t know who they are testing. The first and last tests came well under the threshold for marijuana.

“Under the WADA code, which Nevada follows, in order for a test to be positive for marijuana, it must exceed 150 ng/ml. Under those rules you’re allowed to have a little bit of marijuana in your system. The first test came back around 40 ng/ml, and the last one after fight was around 60 ng/ml. The concentration of urine is higher while dehydrated, so that makes sense, but both were well under the threshold. Then you have this other one, that is taken right after the fight, that is taken to Quest Labs. I’m not going to disparage them and say they’re no good, but the WADA accredited lab is the highest standard. WADA labs are constantly being sent samples, blind samples, where the company knows what’s in the sample, to make sure the different labs get it right.

“Samples often include marijuana, they're constantly tested on that. You’re not gonna find better calibrated equipment than what WADA has. That being said, the Quest Labs sample was 733 ng/ml, one of the highest I’ve ever seen. There are big issues in interpreting those results. There’s no real scientific medical explanation for someone having a 40, then right after the fight a 733, and shortly after that back to 60.”

“It’s hard for me to get in their heads to determine (if the NAC simply didn't like Diaz's attitude). I’d like to think no. I think there was influence based on the two previous positive tests. I didn’t hear an explanation for the five year suspension. Their proposed new regulations is 3 years, which to my understanding hasn’t even been formally passed. It could have been potentially his failure to fill out the form and leaving marijuana off his pre fight that was taken into consideration as some kind of aggravating circumstance. I didn’t hear an explanation behind that. But I think all that is moot, because looking at those three tests, I don’t think that there should have been a positive test to begin with.”

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